Prepare for the ‘worst strikes yet’: NHS nurses will walk out of A&E and cancer wards for the first time as rail workers and Royal Mail staff get set for new wave of strikes NEXT MONTH
- NHS leaders called the union’s move the ‘most worrying escalation of strikes yet’
- Read more: NHS strikes cancelled 140,000 operations and appointments
Rail workers will stage another series of nationwide strikes next month in a long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
The fresh industrial action follows announcements today by unions for Royal Mail staff and nurses, who will both stage walk outs in March.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union said their industrial action will start on March 16 after ’employers refused to put any new offers on the table’.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch said: ‘Rail employers are not being given a fresh mandate by the government to offer our members a new deal on pay, conditions and job security.
‘Therefore, our members will now take sustained and targeted industrial action over the next few months.’
Rail workers will stage another series of nationwide strikes next month in the long-running dispute over pay, jobs and conditions.
The Royal College of Nursing has announced a wave of fresh strike action in March that will be the first 48-hour walkout the union has held in its ongoing dispute on pay
The strike action will see RMT members from 14 train operators walk out on March 16, 18, 30 and April 1.
In an announcement about the decision RMT general secretary Mick Lynch also said: ‘The Government can settle this dispute easily by unshackling the rail companies.
‘However, its stubborn refusal to do so will now mean more strike action across the railway network and a very disruptive overtime ban.’
Tim Shoveller, Network Rail chief negotiator, said: ‘The RMT’s leadership has shown its true colours by choosing politics over people. During months of talks we have made multiple concessions, compromises and offers in our determination to secure a deal.
‘Thousands of employees are telling us they want the improved offer that we have tabled, an offer worth at least 9% over two years – rising to over 14% for the lowest paid, provides job security with no compulsory redundancies and 75% discounted rail travel.
‘But instead of offering members a democratic vote with a referendum, the RMT leadership is hiding behind a sham “consultation”.’
It comes as Nurses announced plans to walk out of cancer wards and intensive care for 48 hours in a major escalation of their industrial action.
While a fresh ballot of members of the Communication Workers Union showed almost 96% were in favour of more strikes unless the deadlock is broken.
Almost 140,000 ops and appointments have been cancelled because of NHS strikes this winter. That toll includes the biggest ever strike to rock the ailing health service on February 6, involving tens of thousands of nurses and paramedics
CWU general secretary Dave Ward said it was a ‘stunning’ result which showed that Royal Mail workers were determined to continue campaigning against plans to introduce changes in the company.
He revealed that talks have been held with Royal Mail’s chairman and new members of the board with a view to ‘refresh’ talks to try to reach an agreement.
Royal Mail workers have staged a series of strikes in recent months, including in the busy run up to Christmas.
While health leaders described the development for nurses as the ‘most worrying escalation of strikes yet’ and Health Secretary Steve Barclay warned it will ‘risk patient safety’.
The nurses strikes will, for the first time, involve staff working in emergency departments, intensive care units, cancer care and other services that were previously exempted.
140,000 cancelled operations and appointments: Staggering collateral damage of NHS strikes so far – so how badly have nurse and 999 crew walk-outs hit YOUR hospital?
NHS nurses from the Royal College of Nursing form a picket line as they strike for safe staffing levels, fair pay and working conditions outside St Thomas Hospital, London on February 6
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) also hopes to bolster its picket lines by increasing the amount it will pay members who lose pay as a result of striking.
The union, which is seeking pay rise of up to 19.7 per cent, said its next strike will run continuously for 48 hours from 6am on March 1.
Previous action took place only during the day shift, for 12 hours each time.
A strike last week saw the RCN agree 5,000 exemptions at local level through committees of NHS hospitals and RCN staff, but this process will be stopped for the March dates.
The RCN said it was continuing discussions with the NHS at national level as part of its commitment to ‘life and limb’ care.
It will reduce services to an ‘absolute minimum’ and ask hospitals to rely on members of other unions and other clinical professions instead.
The nursing union announced that the initial strike benefit rate will be increased from £50 to £80 per day, with the rate increasing to £120 from the fourth day of action.
Pat Cullen, general secretary of the RCN, has accused the government of refusing to engage in negotiations.
She said: ‘It is with a heavy heart that I have today asked even more nursing staff to join this dispute.
‘These strikes will not just run for longer and involve more people but will leave no area of the NHS unaffected. Patients and nurses alike did not want this to happen.
‘By refusing to negotiate with nurses, the Prime Minister is pushing even more people into the strike. He must listen to NHS leaders and not let this go ahead.
‘I will do whatever I can to ensure patient safety is protected.
‘At first, we asked thousands to keep working during the strikes but it is clear that is only prolonging the dispute.
‘This action must not be in vain – the Prime Minister owes them an answer.’
Mr Barclay said: ‘Failure to provide cover during strike action for key services like cancer care is a significant escalation from the Royal College of Nursing that will risk patient safety.
‘We are working closely with NHS England on contingency plans, but this action will inevitably cause further disruption for patients.
‘I’ve had a series of discussions with unions, including the RCN, about what is fair and affordable for the coming year, as well as wider concerns around conditions and workload.’
Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive at NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said: ‘This is the most worrying escalation of strikes yet.
‘With more than 140,000 appointments already postponed as a result of the walkouts, this is a step no one wants to take.
‘A continuous 48-hour strike with no exceptions in A&E, intensive care units or cancer care services will be a huge blow – especially as even more trusts will be affected this time.
‘With further strikes by ambulance workers planned in the coming days and weeks, and junior doctors’ walkouts also likely, trust leaders are now in a near-impossible position.
‘They’re deeply concerned the escalation could hamper their efforts to tackle care backlogs and compromise continuity of care for some.
‘Without a resolution, this ongoing dispute could lead to serious, long-term damage to the NHS.
Read more: Ringing 999? Expect a call BACK! New scheme to ease pressure on ailing NHS ambulances may see thousands of callers told to see their GP instead
‘We understand that frontline staff feel they’ve had no choice but to take this action due to challenges including the high cost of living, workforce shortages and below-inflation pay rises.
‘Trust leaders will be working flat out to ensure patient safety and provision of vital services but they can only do so much by themselves.
‘The Government needs to talk to the unions urgently about pay for this financial year.’
Wes Streeting, Labour’s health spokesman, said: ‘People will be flabbergasted that, three months into this dispute, Rishi Sunak still refuses to get around the table with health unions to bring an end to strikes in the NHS.
‘There hasn’t been a single minute of negotiation but there have been tens of thousands of cancelled operations and appointments.’
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